Our Supposed Healthcare System

Let’s do a brief comparison of the U.S. to the civilized world, when it comes to healthcare insurance and what actually happens when a child is born.  In Switzerland, when a child is born, both the mother and the child may stay up to five days in the hospital.  For even the slightest complication that time gets extended for both.

In the U.S., an insured mother and her child are entitled two days.  If there is a problem with one, as was the case with my new niece (she was jaundiced and required an extra day), she is separated from the mother, who in this case herself spent the night in the hospital lobby so that she could nurse her newborn daughter, three days after having given birth.

Which would you want for your wife, sister, or daughter?  U.S. or civilized?  If you answered “civilized”, then you get to answer another question: who are the people who should supervise our profit-oriented health insurance industry, and where are they?  I personally would like to know.  By the way, here in Switzerland my family and I pay less than most Americans our ages for healthcare, and we’ve not been turned down for anything we needed (in fact we’ve never even had an argument about it).  Now- does that change your answer?

Tunnels, Infrastructure, and Stupid Governors (like that of New Jersey)

Here in Switzerland people may have noticed the news last month about the new 57km (35 mile) Gotthard Tunnel having been broken through from both sides.  The Swiss are to be congratulated on their achievement, which by the way, cost $13 billion, but will shift huge amounts of freight from trucks and roads to rail, reducing CO2 emissions and fuel costs.

Meanwhile in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has cancelled a new rail tunnel project across the Hudson because, he claimed, it was over budget.  Having lived in New Jersey for many years, of course it was it was going to be over budget, to say the least.  But by most reports it wasn’t really that over budget, and the governor seemed to ignore many facts that were placed in front of him, forgoing $3 billion in federal aid.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg knows a deal when he sees one, being a business man.  And so now he has proposed extending the Number 7 subway line across the Hudson to Secaucus, according to the this article in the Wall Street Journal.  From a commuter perspective this would be second best, because it would mean yet another transfer to get to where one is going.  Furthermore, the implications to PATH will have to be carefully studied.  One wonders what it would take to combine PATH with the subway.  A whole lot of downtime comes to mind, of course.  I don’t even know if they use the same gauge track.

Anyway, it’s nice to see someone in America looking at infrastructure in a serious way.

Hello Insecurity, Goodbye Privacy. Thank you, President Obama

Some people say that Internet Security is an oxymoron, because we hear so much about the different ways in which hackers and criminals break into our data, steal our identities, and even use information to commit “real world” crimes like burglary, when it becomes clear that someone’s gone on vacation.  Well now the Obama Administration along with the FBI and NSA are proposing to make things worse, according to an article in today’s New York Times.

According to the Times, the government is going to propose requiring that developers give up on one of the key principals of securing information– use of end to end encryption, the argument being that law enforcement does not have the visibility to information they once had, say, in the Nixon era, where the NSA acted as a vacuum cleaner and had access to anything.

As our friend Professor Steve Bellovin points out, weakening security of the Internet for law enforcement also weakens it for benefit of criminals.  Not a month ago, for instance, David Barksdale was fired from Google for violating the privacy of teenagers.  He could do that because communications between them were not encrypted end-to-end.  (Yes, Google did the right thing by firing the slime).

This isn’t the first time that the government has wanted the keys to all the castles, since the invention of public key cryptography.  Some of us remember the Clipper chip and a government-mandated key escrow system that the Clinton Administration wanted to mandate in the name of law enforcement.  A wise friend of mine said, and this applies equally now, “No matter how many people stand between me and the escrow, there exists a value of money for me to buy them off.”  The same would be true here, only it would be worse, because in this case, the government seems not to be proposing a uniform technical mechanism.

What’s worse– this mandate will impact only law abiding citizens and not criminals, as the criminals will encrypt data anyway on top of whatever service they use.

What you can do: call your congressman now, and find out where she or he stands.  If they’re in favor of such intrusive policy, vote them out.

It happened again! TSA Risks lives at JFK!

If there’s one thing that I can’t stand, it’s people who don’t learn from their mistakes, and here once again, the TSA has failed to learn.  Once again they evacuated a terminal, took many people and crammed them into small spaces, and created a huge target for a bomber, this time in Terminal 8 of JFK.  This time the incident occurred because someone went through a door he shouldn’t have gone through.

Poor Bank Executives Aren’t Getting Their Millions

I know it’s not American when the government limits pay for anyone, but that is precisely what they are doing for executives of banks that required bailouts.  After all, they only lost $1.2 trillion worldwide, bringing on the worst world recession since at least 1991. And really, why should the American people control wages of people who had to borrow from us in order to stay afloat?  Why don’t these people deserve their $10 mansions, yachts, and airplanes?  Oh wait.  They get to keep all of that?  And they get to keep their jobs?  Perhaps there are no qualified people to replace them, although one would think that with over 10% unemployment out there, someone would like to try.  Surely the American people would do this for my industry too, so I should be quiet, right?  Oh wait.  Our industry did have a downturn in 2001.  But unlike our industry that brought such hits as pets.com,  none of this was the banks’ fault, right?  Oh wait. didn’t this start with subprime loans that couldn’t be repaid because the banks were handing money to just about anyone?  And weren’t the banks offering housing loans for only 5% down payment where the mortgage didn’t pay back principle?  And these people still get to keep their jobs?  And they’re complaining about a salary limitation?

How about this: pay back the money we lent you and then you can choose your salaries.  Either that or let me buy your mansions and not pay for them.